Flint Must Make Us Ask: Is Our Water Ready for an Emergency?
In emergency situations, providing access to and cleansing water is as important as the availability of the water itself. Even when available, non-potable is a significant danger. The United Nations says diarrhea caused by consuming unsafe water is a top cause of morbidity due to malnutrition, contributing to roughly 60% of deaths of children under five years olds in developing countries and during refugee situations.
Dangers grow as demand increases, and nearby facilities are either unable to keep up with need or are located too far away from land available for refugees. The farther a disaster is from a local facility – or when facilities are damaged – the more significant the danger to everyone involved.
While our industry can do little to increase infrastructure in emergency situations, the development of mobile water cleansing units allows emergency aid networks to immediately ensure cleanliness when water sources are developed.
To provide complete support, systems must address both the water source as well as contamination that may increase over time. For example, 10,000 refugees using pit latrines will deposit roughly 25 metric tons of Nitrogen and 20 metric tons of Chloride into the ground each year, creating the potential for increased contamination over time.
Multi-stage systems are best positioned to address this concern when able to incorporate advanced filtration options like electrocoagulation and UV exposure.
Managing Multiple Feed Sources On-Site
When humanitarian concerns are high enough to force evacuations and establish refugee camps, aid workers will face significant concerns for potable water. Often, larger camps as well as towns and villages welcoming refugees will meet increased water demands by adding new feed water sources.
Contamination becomes significantly more likely as each new source is added. When using existing infrastructure, the situation becomes more complicated as professionals must address the chemical composition of each source individually as well as together.
Electrocoagulation solutions have proven to be an effective piece of larger multi-stage purification processes when combining multiple sources. The overall electrolysis process can precipitate out large quantities of contaminants in a single operation. Deployments have successfully resolved problems related to:
- Bacteria, parasites, and viruses,
- Emulsified oils,
- Heavy metals including lead,
- Radioactive particles,
- And organics ranging arsenic to volatile and colloidal particulate matter.
Specifically, systems using electrocoagulation are able to achieve up to a 99.9% reduction of cholera, one of the most significant threats to those in emergency camps. Last year, a cholera outbreak in a holding camp for Burundi refugees transitioning to larger Tanzania camps killed 31 people. If the outbreak had hit the larger refugee camps in Tanzania, the number of dead and ill could’ve been significantly higher.
Purification through UV exposure can provide significant cleansing of water that is microbiologically unsafe. Advanced systems pair this module with sediment removal and are able to process large volumes of water with minimal adjustment or downtime.
Mobile water cleansing units can operate on-site and typically can react contaminates to their most stable state before removal through multiple methods including clarification.
We recommend it specifically for potable water needs in emergency and refugee situations because of the advanced filtration options that are available at an affordable rate. When discussing these options with emergency suppliers and governments, it’s not just those features that need to be highlighted.
Providing Benefits for Mobile Water Access
The immediate need of humanitarian efforts often leads professionals and companies to consider usage above all else. However, the industry would do well to apply business benefits of mobile water filtration and recycling units in these cases.
Refugees and those seeking emergency relief from disasters – man-made and natural – often benefit from many of the characteristics we reserve for business considerations.
On-site cleaning that allows reuse can eliminate many disposal costs and overall water needs through a reduction in water hauling. As an industry, we’ve created solutions that can operate at levels close to 100% recycled production – often achieving 100% when there is access to flow-back water – for wells and fracking. That’s a top consideration for any disaster response and such capabilities must become a priority in our partnership with disaster-relief and aid organizations.
Lower maintenance costs are also a must for these deployments. Some newer units can generate a maintenance-cost savings of 50% compared to chemical coagulation processes. By reducing long-term costs for humanitarian groups, we can better enable them to deliver continuous care when needed.
Simpler operation and maintenance also reduce the personnel required to maintain equipment, making deployment quicker and long-term use more affordable.
When the goal is to provide clean, treated water for consumption, cleaning, and reuse within the system, we must showcase all benefits that allow mobile systems to operate for a longer period with minimal investment.
We can simplify decisions for emergency aid providers and responders, which is exactly what they need when an emergency strikes.